Making a farce of it isn’t always a good thing … unless you’re talking about a crowd-pleasing play, which happens to be right in Drayton Entertainment’s wheelhouse.
With One For The Pot, now on at the Dunfield Theatre in Cambridge, Drayton rolls out the quintessential light, summertime fare. It’s pure escapism.
A classic British farce, One For The Pot rolls out mistaken identities and unrequited romances at a breakneck speed. We meet Billy Hickory Wood, a young man determined to prove that he is the only surviving child of a rich mill owner in order to claim a hefty inheritance. Billy’s troubles – and the audiences’ laughs – start when other would-be heirs emerge from the woodwork, each looking identical to young William.
The resultant string of mix-ups, faux pas and hare-brained schemes add up to a whole lot of laughs.
Written by Ray Cooney and Tony Hilton, One for the Pot is British farce in every sense of the word. The first collaboration for Cooney and Hilton, its original 1959 London production ran for four and a half years.
“I think the Drayton audience has a great appetite for this. It’s really hard to produce, but really fun to watch. They’re experienced in this kind of play,” says director Marcia Kash of the enduring appeal of farces.
With this kind of farce, the challenge is getting the timing just right. That’s meant plenty of rehearsal time heading into this week’s opening.
“It’s a lot of play. For the actors, it’s a very busy show – it’s a tricky beast,” she notes.
That’s especially true for the lead, Eddie Glen, who not only plays Billy Hickory Wood but four doppelgangers, each complete with different personalities and regional accents.
“He’s all over the place,” says Kash of the pace set by Glen.
The actor is no stranger to the Drayton stage. Earlier this season, he was in The 39 Steps at St. Jacobs Country Playhouse where he also played multiple comedic characters. His other Drayton Entertainment credits include It Runs in the Family, The Pirates of Penzance, Spamalot, Les Misérables and Man of La Mancha.
The cast also includes Tim Funnell as the crafty, cockeyed ‘solicitor’ Charlie Barnet, who manages to be both cunning and charming as he slyly pursues his secret agenda. David Leyshon is the coy house servant, Jugg. He delivers the laughs through long-suffering looks, contorted facial expressions and exaggerated silent body language – classic elements of the farce.
Veteran actor Brian Tree assumes the identity of Jonathan Hardcastle, the rich mill owner who is trying to stay in control of his chaotic household. Sarah Higgins is suitably wide-eyed and innocent as Jonathan’s daughter, Cynthia Hardcastle, whose love life and every move are scrutinized by her overprotective father. Andrea Risk is his wacky sister, Amy Hardcastle, while Kyle Golemba finds a terrific balance between stuffiness and suaveness as the beguiling art critic Clifton Weaver. Amanda Leigh mines laughs as Billy’s histrionic wife, Winnie, and Douglas E. Hughes is the ever-amusing solicitor, Arnold Piper. Newcomer Jason Huska rounds out the cast.
“They’re a terrific bunch,” says Kash of her cast.
Heading into the opening last week, she was rounding out the show, which she expects might see a few tweaks when it’s been live for a few days.
“You can rehearse these things forever, but there’s one thing missing: the audience,” she notes. With live theatre, the cast can respond to the audience reaction. And, the beauty of live theatre, “it’s never exactly the same thing twice.”
With its manic pace, timing is everything. It takes a great deal of work to make what happens on stage look effortless, Kash says.
“If we’ve done our jobs right, it looks like it’s really easy and fun.”
The Drayton Entertainment production of One For The Pot runs through August 12 at the Dunfield Theatre. Tickets are $46 ($27 for youths), available at the box office, online at www.draytonentertainment.com or by calling the (519) 638-5555 or toll free at 1-855-drayton (372-9866).